In the fall of 2021 (while it was still pretty much impossible for most people to visit) South Korea has introduced an Electronic Travel Authorization which most travelers are now required to apply for.
With Korea now reopening in just a few weeks we’d like to remind our readers who plan to visit that this is now a mandatory step even if no visa is required to visit when the visa waiver program applies again.
The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) is something that has been established with quite a few countries over the last decade. First, it was only Australia, then the U.S. introduced ESTA (for non-Visa holders), followed by Canada and now South Korea as well.
It’s really hard to say what exactly it does other than ticking off a few questions concerning travel and health history.
The Korea ETA also requires a picture to be uploaded. There is a fee for the processing which comes at 10,300 KRW (~US$9) The website says 10,000 KRW but I was charged 300 Won extra..
You can access the official website for the Republic of Korea ETA here.
The ETA is required for travelers who:
- Do not have a visa for the Republic of Korea
- A person who intends to enter the country short-term for business or tourism purpose
There are some exemptions as well such as for airline crew as well as transit passengers who do not require this ETA. Anyone who has one will no longer be required to submit the arrival forms at the immigration counter. You do need to update your details concerning the stay in Korea (first address) with each entry though.
This is the official website from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that explains the rationale and policy process behind the K-ETA.
Here is an instruction:
And the same for the mobile app:
Since the ETA will be valid for two years I decided that I can just as well apply for it now and see how the process works while I’d assume there are very few applicants for it at the moment.
I did so via the mobile app that I first downloaded from the App Store which made it easier to take a picture of the passport data page and a selfie for the application as well.
The process was very easy and I paid the fee using my Amex card.
A confirmation was sent instantly:
According to the confirmation email procession could take up to 24 hours but I received my approval roughly 20 minutes later:
I was surprised about the speed although I didn’t expect any problems in this regard. I’ve entered Korea over 80 times by now and never had an issue.
John wrote about Korea opening up to fully vaccinated visitors without quarantine within the next few weeks and allowing the use of public transportation from the Airport starting from April 1, 2022:
South Korea Welcomes Fully Vaccinated Visitors Without Quarantine From March 21, 2022
As Japan is still closed this is fantastic news as it means I’ll be able to enjoy cherry blossom once again and while I’d prefer to be in Tokyo and Osaka I’m very much looking forward to be back in Korea in a few week’s time.
Keep in mind that Korea had previously (in March of 2020) suspended the visa waiver program for most eligible countries. It’s my understanding that the visa waiver option is now back for most of the affected countries as this notice on the Korean Embassy website in France suggests.
I recommend making 100% sure of this by consulting the consulate/embassy website or hotline in your country of citizenship to avoid any issues.
There is now a mandatory ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) form for entries into South Korea and travelers have to apply for this, awaiting their approval, prior to flying to Korea in order to be eligible for entry.
It’s recommended to have this form (once approved) printed or at least available in a digital version to present to airline staff and immigration officials when prompted. It’s unclear where (if) this will be physically checked and validated or if it’s going to be through electronic channels only.